COTW: Coping with Stress
When I told *Split* I would do a post on how to cope with stress, I had in mind some pretty basic things we all should know. Low and behold someone made this post for a COTW over a year ago!
http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/78...-poker-589822/ So, I suppose I'll have to take things a bit further.
Stress has been present since the first single celled organism came into existence. How fortunate that this has been passed on to humanity. While this at first seems a negative thing, you must truly look at the original purpose of a stress response. For hundreds of thousands of years the predominant stressors to humanity were physical ones. When you become stressed several things happen: blood flow increases, reaction time speeds up, focus and concentration heighten, memories become more elaborate, and bursts of energy abound. While this is especially useful when you are running from a lion or suffering from intense hunger, a long term stress response isn't so +EV as our body can only handle these benefits for so long. For whatever reason our bodies have adapted the stress response to also be triggered when a psychological stressor is present. Boy, aren't we poker players lucky...
If you were to lazy to click the link above (or you were confused by the OP and didn't satisfy your curiosity by scrolling down), then I'll tell you the first few things you really need to do in order to start coping with stress. Although most of these things seem obvious, a lot of people tend to neglect to do them and thus, their body suffers from excess for their lack of action. It should be noted that generally stress does not CAUSE disease, it does do several things that make you much, much more susceptible to disease.
1. Sleep 7-8 hrs a night. More if your younger, less if your older. Each sleep cycle lasts approx 1hr and 30min so don't set your alarm to wake you up during the last half as disrupting the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep have been shown to highly impair certain brain functions. If you have trouble sleeping, don't lay in bed for more than 30 minutes, get up, do something relaxing and try again later. Sleep aids are generally not recommended but if they must be used limit the use for a short period time.
2. Eat right. You are what you eat and you are a functioning, calculating machine. So do yourself a favor and put the right kind of gasoline in the tank. This is a massive topic so I'll be quite brief. First and foremost you need to stay hydrated! Water is required to digest your food and is also required among almost every other biologic function. Next, you typically want to avoid highly processed foods and choose "whole" foods. This isn't very practical in today's' world but there are a few general choices you can make like snacking on berries and nuts instead of chips, replacing red meat with lean meats such as chicken, turkey, or better yet, fish. You also need to make sure your getting enough fiber in your diet. Just to give you an idea, a male under age 50 needs 38grams of fiber a day. Fiber from oat meal, fruits, and vegetables is highly preferred over dietary supplements. FWIW carbohydrates naturally counteract glucocorticoids (a part of your stress response that provides energy, but will wreak havoc if too highly elevated for too long). I suggest eating a small carb heavy, low fat snack before a session but please, don't go overboard here. Lastly, drop or limit the soda habit! If you are afraid you are caffeine dependent, then you should know that tea, especially green tea, is a natural WHOLE source of caffeine.
3. Socialize often. I don't have a lot to say here, probably because I'm an introverted person, however, it should be obvious how social interaction will help combating stress and stressors. Also, I do know that for men, having a romantic partner will greatly reduce the effects of stress on you (unless of course she is a raving bitch). As for women, they tend to be more picky here and require a "good" relationship (how ever in the hell you quantify that...) to reduces the effects of stress.
4. Exercise regularly. Daily exercise was, like the stress response, bred into us over hundreds of thousands of years and now many of us don't do much of it at all. While general exercise will help your body handle the various effects caused by prolonged exposure to stress, it will also CAUSE stress if you're doing something you don't enjoy. Thus, you need to choose something you enjoy. If you are not a runner, don't force yourself to run for exercise. Generally you should exercise for a minimum of 30 minuets a day and typically no longer than 1.5hrs. Please do not pick an activity that is highly skillful unless it is something you truly, truly enjoy. Finally, be diverse in your physical activities. There isn't sufficient scientific research saying that one type is better than any other or what ratio is best but mixing cardio with strength training along with flexibility training all have various benefits to the physical and mental body.
5. Find more Hobbies. It is estimated that to really learn a new skill it takes, on average, 10,000 hours. That should be plenty of time to get your mind off of stressful things. Here is another spot where you must choose something you enjoy. IMO becoming healthy is a great hobbies to get started on. Here is a good post on the subject: http://archives1.twoplustwo.com/show...Number=9464588
6. Practice mental health. This is a blanket for everything that is about to follow.
-Be honest with yourself. There are no free lunches, a miracle cure-all does not exist, and everything comes at a cost. Once you accept the truth of the matter, you can begin getting a handle on your psychological stress response.
-Limit alcohol/drug use.
(j'ai amelioré ce point) Pretty much self explanatory. Some types of alcohol have been shown to produce positive effects upon health but again, moderation is key. One hard shot of liquor each month has been shown to help in the formation of memories. Red wine has powerful antioxidants (that can be gotten from eating red grapes...) and has shown to be beneficial to heart health. It is still recommended that if you have never drank you should start for these benefits.
-Get some sun. I don't say this to tell you to leave the house, I say this because there are many benefits to getting natural light. Not only does sunlight cause your body to produce vitamin D, it also helps in setting your circadian rhythms and aids in preventing depression.
-Avoid negative inner dialog. Like Pringles, "Once ya pop, ya just can't stop." Although I tell you to avoid this, you can learn a lot if you can add one more step to your dialog. Explain to yourself why your saying what you are saying. This simple step will help you react mindfully to the situation thus giving you an edge on how to respond next.
-As Katt Williams says, "Get your 7 laughs a day in mother ****er cause if you aint, you're doing something wrong." Laughter ironically evokes a similar reaction to working out when it comes to stress. Even smiling has also been shown to produce similar effects. Either way, laughing or smiling for no reason will do wonders towards putting you in a good mood.
-Develop spirituality. This is helpful because it allows you to fee less accountable for certain actions. Take this too far and you get yourself into denial. While denial is great when looking at the initial stress response, it is truly horrific when your denial is counterfeited.
-Take Naps. Naps should last around 20 minutes. If you can't go to sleep, at the very least close your eyes, relax, and clear your mind for 10-15min. I think you can see how and why this will help you to cope with stress.
-Breath! Breathing is something most of us take for granted. Each time you exhale you activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The purpose of the parasympathetic nervous system is to calm you down and return your body to a steady state.
-Practice a form of meditation. Like exercise, you must choose something that is good for you. Yoga is a good place to start if traditional meditation isn't appealing.
-Practice mindfulness. This is the foundation of almost everything I have written and can be simply put as "living in the moment". Mindfulness is the exact opposite of multi-tasking (multi tasking is a pretty taxing operation to be honest). Mindfulness requires you to concentrate on one task to the point where you become engulfed by that task. Do you remember getting lost in play as a child? Get lost in the actions required brushing your teeth each morning, get lost in your breath and the way your body reacts to it, be aware and consistently correct your posture. That is how you begin to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness will help you to combat going on autopilot. Autopilot is your enemy at the tables and in your day to day life. Mindfulness will allow you to turn off or limit your psychological stress response.
I hope that this slightly different COTW will add some +EV to your game as well a whole lot of +EV to your life. If you have any tips you would like to share, please do. I also have some other information I'm willing to share regarding diet and exercise if you want more in-depth information. Thanks for reading and happy grinding!